Title: Eyes in the Forest
Fandom: Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Disclaimer: I own nothing. I bend to Joss Whedon's will and try my best not to murder his characters.
Summary: Prince Alexander always longed for the forest. Little did he know that the forest longed for him as well.
Notes: Kind of written on the fly after I watched Hoodwinked. It has nothing at all to do with the story Hoodwinked. I was just thinking about how no one would watch fairy tales if they knew what really happened in them. Also, it's unbetaed, so go easy on it.
Once upon a time, as all good stories begin, in a far away kingdom of unknown beauty like one could not imagine, there lived a king. He was like every good king should be, he was just, kind, and fair. The people loved him. Only he was not happy. He longed for an heir, but his wife only bore daughters. So he stole away into the forest one night to make a deal with the spirits of the forest.
"Oh spirits of the forest," cried King Rupert when he felt he could go no further. "I beseech thee; give me a son so I can have an heir to my thrown."
"Our king," the forest replied. "For your kind deeds, we shall give you an heir. His skin shall be fair like the new fallen snow. His hair shall be black like the coal in your mines. His eyes shall be brown like the color of our bark to always remind you of forest from which he came. But if one branch is torn from our limbs, we shall send a monster to whisk your heir away and your line shall bare no more children."
"Of course!" The king declared. "Not even a twig shall be snapped from your lovely branches if you give me the heir I so desire."
"Then we have a deal." Thunder clapped over head and King Rupert shivered where he stood. "In eighteen years time, he shall become the most handsome man in the kingdom and will take the crown. Until then, do not forget our agreement."
"I will not. I am forever grateful to you. I will not forget."
The king hurried away back to the castle and nine months later, his queen bore a son just as the spirits had said. They named him Alexander.
On the eve of Alexander's seventeenth birthday and nearly three months before his coronation, Alexander was playing merrily with his dogs Ruthsford and Bulsworth. Ruthsford was all black while Bulsworth was all white, but it did not matter as they both tried to pull dear Alexander to the ground. He laughed as he fell to floor, dirt and leaves twisting their way into the prince's hair.
"Is that such a way for a prince to behave?" A man's voice asked.
Alexander pushed the dogs off of him to sit up and peer around for the man who dare questioned the prince during his time to himself. He squinted through the thick trees to make out the shadowy shape of a man, just feet away from him. Alexander was always forbidden to play near the forest that the spirits had claimed, but that did not prevent him from going in anyway.
"Who are you to tell me how a prince should behave?" Alexander questioned back getting onto his feet. "I am my own man and can do as I please."
"Yet you wish to spend your time playing. Should you not be worried more about the other aspects of the world?"
"What other aspects of the world are there? The forest is the only aspect I hold dear."
Alexander tried to look through the trees at the figure, but he could not see the stranger clearly. He cautiously stepped into the woods to try to find the man he was speaking to.
"Have you not ever wished to travel? What of women? Have you ever plucked a fine one from the branch?"
"Nay, my good sir. Only the fair Lady Anyanka and her land hold my attention. With our marriage after my coronation, that is all the woman and travel I will need."
"You seem so sure. What I would not give to knock you off your horse to see confusion beset your face."
"I am afraid, good sir, that you shall never see confusion on my face for I am a prince and princes are always sure."
Stormy blue eyes blinked out at him through the shadows of the trees. Alexander could do nothing but stare as the eyes continued to burrow deep into his soul, making his breath catch and his head swim. He did not think he had ever seen a more beautiful pair of eyes.
"Alexander!" His nursemaid, Joyce, called to him. "Alexander, you filthy child, your ball starts in but an hour and we need you looking presentable."
Alexander looked back not realizing how far he had ventured into the woods. His eyes snapped forward to tell the man he had to be off, only to see that the man had vanished. Was the man one of the spirits his father had talked to him about when he was a boy?
"Alexander, I shall tan your hide if you do not come out from hiding this instant."
Alexander grudgingly made his way out of the woods and into the light of day. He shielded his eyes from the too bright sun as Joyce promptly marched towards him in a huff.
"King Rupert and Queen Olivia would not like it if they were to know that you were in the forest that belongs to the spirits. It is dangerous for you, young prince."
"That is why we shalt not be telling them."
He grinned at her and proceeded to stride off towards the castle, while Joyce told him how cold his bath was and how she would not be drawing it again. Alexander did not mind a cold bath. He preferred one if anyone were to ask, which they did not. A cold bath always felt like he was in a small spring somewhere deep in the forest. How he longed for the forest.
"Sit so I may remove your boots," Dawn, Joyce's daughter, said.
Dawn was Joyce's only living daughter. Her first daughter had died while Joyce was in labor with her, which is how she became Alexander's nursemaid to begin with. Soon after taking to raising Alexander, Joyce able to successfully birth Dawn before her husband's untimely death while hunting in the forest. They say he did not make proper tribute and the monster that lurked there killed him.
"You must be careful with Bulsworth," Dawn chattered as she removed Alexander's boots. "He only just got over his injury from the hunt last week and we do not want him injured again."
"I think the prince knows how to take care of his own dogs. Do not forget your place."
"Hush, Joyce," Alexander said. "Are we all not equal in the eyes of the spirits? Do they not smite us equally if we do not pay tribute to them? She may speak with me however she wants."
"Alexander," Princess Buffy said.
He didn't have to turn around. He could smell her flowery perfumes from where he sat in the kitchen.
"These are the servants' quarters." Her voice was full of distain. "How dare I have to come here to retrieve you! You should remember your place, dear brother."
"Aye, I remember it. It is on the throne that royal arse was denied upon my birth, well that is what you keep reminding me."
"I never heard such language, brother. You are nothing but a savage. A savage shall inherit the throne and our kingdom shall fall into ruins."
"Maybe I, dear sister, am the beast which haunts the woods. Be careful. I feel offended." Dawn snickered as she put on his boots that were more fitted for the inside. "What say you? Shall I attack?"
"You jest like a fool and that is what you are. I shall be embroidering with our sisters, Darla and Cordelia. Please do not seek us out until you are properly bathed."
Alexander tilted his head to watch her blonde curls retreat around the corner. He wished Willow had not been married off to King Daniel. He missed her greatly and she was the only one of his sisters that he cared for. He did care for his other sisters, Darla, Cordelia, Buffy, and Drusilla, but Darla, Buffy, and Cordelia were always viewing themselves as Alexander's betters, while Drusilla, the poor dear, had been born wrong due to complications and was now mad as a loon. King Rupert spared her, but she now wandered around the castle, destined to be a spinster since no man would marry her.
"Will you please excuse us," his father's voice boomed.
The servants scampered out of the kitchens to leave the king and his son alone. Alexander scowled. Didn't his father know they had work to do? If his father wanted to speak with him, he could have commanded him to leave the room or taken him to another part of the castle.
"What is it, Father? I need to prepare for the ball in my honor tonight. I surely cannot go looking like this."
"Your manner is not becoming of a prince. Will you act like this when you ascend the throne?"
"No, I think I shall act much worse."
"Alexander, you are my only son. You must uphold our family’s honor and traditions. If I had another son, the crown could go to him and you could do as you please but that is not the case."
"Then I shall run away. I shall run deep into the woods and let the monster who lives there find me. I will let them tear me apart and feast on my flesh if all I am is a title to you."
"Do not be foolish, boy."
He thrust a sheathed dagger into Alexander's hand. Alexander inspected the finely carved wooden handle with their family's crest on it along with rubies from Anyanka's kingdom. He pulled the dagger from its sheath and inspected its fine temperance.
"It is not my birthday until midnight. Why give me such a fine gift now?"
"If anyone tries to lure you into the woods, slash them with that dagger. It was carved from the finest branch in the kingdom and I saw it only fit to make it into a blade for you."
Alexander tucked the blade back into its sheath and attached it to his belt.
"I shall carry it with me always."
Alexander sat to the side watching people mill into the lavish ballroom. Anyanka wouldn't be attending his birthday ball because she had pressing matters back at her kingdom, so he felt lonely knowing no one here except his sisters.
"The stars are shining brightly," Drusilla said standing only a few feet away from him. "Brother Alexander can see the stars. His love sick heart has named them all the same. They are quite confused."
"Drusilla, there are not any stars out tonight. The clouds cover them all."
"Not in this room. The monster has come. He is going to gobble Brother Alexander up before our eyes. Alexander will not mind. He will go willingly."
"What are you talking about?"
He turned his head to look at Drusilla to see a man standing behind her that he had never met. He was otherworldly. His short hair was a tussled mess of soft blonde curls and his skin was even fairer than Alexander's, but his eyes, those were what trapped him. They were the same eyes that he had stared at in the woods.
"She warns you that a monster walks among you and you do not listen? This child was gifted with visions of which everyone ignores. I truly do not understand why."
"I am not what the monster wants," Drusilla said. "Daddy didn't break his agreement with me."
She walked away, humming silently. The man sat next to Alexander and smiled at him seductively.
"My name is William."
"What kingdom do you belong to, William?"
"I do not belong to any kingdom."
"So you are a nomad."
"If you must give it a name, yes I am."
"What is a nomad doing at the ball of a prince?"
"I have an invite to go and come from this castle as I please."
Alexander noticed William eyeing the new dagger his father had given him. He removed it from its sheath and presented it to William to study. William cautiously took the dagger, examining it from hilt to blade. He slipped the dagger back into Alexander's sheath.
"The hilt was made with wood from the forest," William said darkly. "You knowingly carry it and are not afraid of the monster that will come for you?"
"Come for me? Why would the monster come for me?"
"You do not know, pet?"
William's hand came to rest on Alexander's thigh. He wanted to scream at William and tell him those types of advances were unwarranted, but Alexander made the mistake of looking William in the eye and was caught there.
"What do I not know?"
"That removing one branch from the forest would bring the monster out of the forest and into the land of man. That the monster would capture the young prince and bring him into the forest."
"My father would never remove a branch from the forest if he knew how it would affect me."
"Then why is your dagger made out of forest wood when your father made the deal himself?"
"I- You're the monster who has come to take me away."
William licked his lips and brought his other hand to rest on Alexander's cheek, "Aye, that is me. I have been with the forest since it was merely one tree in hopes of calling others to stand by it. The forest has since grown and so has my domain."
"I should slit your throat. Let your blood run cold for you are merely human outside the protection of the forest."
"You should, but you will not."
"Why not? If I kill you, then the people of the kingdom will be able to wander the forest freely without worry."
"And will they stop at wandering? No, they will burn us, they will chop us, and they will kill us. If I am not there to protect the forest, then you humans would ruin it."
"I would never-"
"Of course you would never. You are a part of the forest, but humans do not see it like you do. Where you see beauty, they see a challenge. Like we are mocking their very existence with our magnificent branches. They always mean to tear us down."
"You are a tree?"
"When I wish to be. When I wish to be human, I am human. When I wish to be beast, I am beast. You could have that."
"Are there others? In the forest like you, I mean."
"No, there are no others. Only the trees and the animals that will live by the rules of the forest. Then there are the spirits, but they are more whispers."
"It must be lonely."
"It is. That is why they gave me you."
"Gave me to you?" Alexander whispered with a hint of excitement in his voice.
He knew should have been scared that he belonged to a monster of the forest. But he was not. Something about William and his eyes excited him and dragged him deeper. William’s eyes were like the forest, the longer he was in them, the more lost he got.
“When you were born, your father knew. He just knew that you belonged to the forest. Yet you were not bound to me yet. No, you were bound to me when out of anger and spite; he walked into the forest and cut one of our branches.”
“But, you tricked him… you gave him a child of the forest, not a child of the kingdom.”
“We told him that it was merely to remind him of his deal. If he would have stayed with his deal, in three months time, you would be on throne, married and ready to make your wife plump with child. Sure you would have longed for the forest, but you would have kept to your duty like a good son.”
“I would have,” Alexander repeated breathlessly. “But that is no more.”
Cold steel pressed against William’s neck and Alexander looked up to see his father standing before them. King Rupert pressed the sword into William’s throat and glared harshly at him.
“You will unhand my son.”
“He is not your son anymore,” William said not taking his eyes off Alexander. “I have come to collect. I am the physical link to the forest. Kill me and the trees shall wither, the wells shall dry up, and the animals shall die along with your people. The forest stretches for miles, you will not find another place to provide you shelter. Should your people pay for your folly?”
“Why now? I took that branch when he was but a babe. Why come now?”
“But I have always been here. I have always watched over what is mine. Now he is a man and I am ready to take him to my bed. Stop me if you must, but after tonight he will not bed another.”
“This is ludicrous. Alexander, tell him. Tell him how you plan to marry Anyanka.”
“I cannot. I belong to the forest. I belong to William.”
“He kills people from the villages and the castle. He leaves widows and orphans. Surely you cannot belong to such a monster.”
“Then they should not have wandered into the forest so blindly. They should have given tribute to the bounty of the forest instead of taking without gratitude.”
William grinned and turned his eyes upon the king. King Rupert withdrew his sword and sheathed it. He motioned for his men to stand down and watched his only son leave with the monster from the forest.
“My Lord, we shall burn the forest,” Sir Finn, the leader of the knights, said.
“That will do us no good. It is my fault. Out of anger, I handed the one treasure I held dear to my enemy. I did not even treasure him while I had him. I treated him with contempt and favored my daughters. It is my fault, but I will not let my people suffer for my mistake. No, we shall have none of that.”
The kingdom soon fell into ruin. King Rupert refused to eat or drink from the guilt of what he did to his only son. Queen Olivia soon followed faithfully after her husband. Queen Buffy ascended the throne next, but her higher taxes and harsher methods soon led to the dethroning of the royal family. The peasants moved away and the castle was swallowed by the forest. No one knows what happened to Alexander after he left his birthday ball. Some say the monster killed him, while others say he still lives in the forest watching over his nursemaid’s family for she was the only one who really treasured him. But most, except for the some who say he was murdered, agree that he lived happily ever after with William.